Once is an accident, twice is inexcusable

At an office yesterday, I accidentally walked into the corner of a low seated area and was punished with a 2-inch gash on my leg.

Initially I continued with my meeting as planned. But after wincing in pain for the third time, I looked down to my tights (which miraculously didn’t rip) and noticed that I was bleeding through them.

“Ummm….” I interjected in the middle of the meeting. “I’m sorry to do this, but it looks like I’m actually bleeding quite a bit. I think I need to find a Band-Aid.

On my walk to the receptionist, I took a closer look around the office atrium where I injured myself. Here’s what it looked like:

A set of internal stairs led up to the second floor directly in the middle of the reception area. The base of the stairs (where I stood) was surrounded on three sides by a long wooden bench standing about two feet from the ground. A few cushions were built directly into the bench, allegedly inviting people to linger or hang around like you might sit on the edge of an outdoor fountain.

But here’s the part that (literally) tripped me up: The “edge” of this wooden bench wasn’t wood: It was metal. I’m assuming this is because some interior designer thought it’d be a nice touch to connect the “look” of the steel handrail of the stairs in a clever way. What you got was a half-inch strip of metal on the edge of this seated area, and at each corner of the bench, the metal intersected in a small criss-cross pattern, literally exposing four blunt edges of steel.

Huh, I thought. That’s an odd design choice to encourage people to sit here. But what do I know?

I walked to the reception desk to inquire about a First Aid kit.

“Excuse me,” I asked the front desk receptionist. “Do you have any Band-Aids? I hurt myself on the corner of that bench over there, and I’m bleeding quite a bit.” I gestured down to my leg.

She immediately stood up and gasped. “Oh no! Of course! Let me call right away.” She picked up the phone and rang for a security guard to bring me some medical supplies.

Then she walked around the desk to take a closer look at my injury.

“How big is it?” she asked.

“About two inches,” I told her. “You can sort of see it here.” I stretched my tights and pointed out the length of my cut, which was still bleeding.

She nodded knowingly. “It hurts, right?”

“Yeah, it’s actually pretty annoying,” I said. “I did it right over there, on the corner of that bench area around the stairs.”

She nodded again and shook her head. Then she leaned over and rolled up her own pant leg, exposing her left shin. There, on her leg, she pointed out a two-inch diagonal cut on her leg that mirrored my own.

I gasped. The receptionist had the same injury.

“You did it, too?” I asked her. “Right over there?”

She just kept nodding.

At this point, my mild irritation shifted to something a little more severe. It’s one thing to have an accident. It’s another to let it happen again. This sort of thing should be a no-brainer.

I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what your job title says you’re responsible for. I don’t care who you work for or how much of a pain they might be when you offer suggestions or changes. I don’t care if you’re “the newest one” or “the most junior one” or whatever other excuse you’re giving yourself to explain why you can’t speak up.

It’s everybody’s job to keep a lookout for things that keep the tribe safe.

If there’s something in your product that feels a little inky to your promise for the customer experience, bring it up before it becomes an even bigger problem. If there’s someone in your office who’s being a bully, call it out before they bully others. And it there’s something in your office that physically injuring people, figure out how to make it safer.

If you see something, say something.

Otherwise, you’re complicit in letting it continue. And that’s not a great feeling.

Originally published at Dry Erase.

GM @USV, alum of @StackOverflow and @NorthwesternU, board member at @CompSci_High and @NUalumni, co-founder of #BeyondCodingNYC

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